It’s Saturday morning and my alarm goes off at 3:00am, normally I would groan at the thought of getting up at this time on a Saturday morning but this morning was the ninth running of the 2016 Cape Cod Bay Challenge and my fourth time crossing the bay. There were butterflies in my stomach but not because I was off to a SUP race but because I was excited to cross the Cape Cod Bay with 24 other paddlers who share the same passion, the love for SUP and the passion to raise money for Christopher’s Haven.
All the training each day led up to this morning where a group of us head down to the beach to launch our paddle boards to head across the bay. As we say our “Good Mornings” with a smile and a little bit of nervousness on what the day on the water will bring, we know that whatever challenges we may face during the crossing pale in comparison to the challenges that the families we are raising the money for face every day. So whatever challenges we face, we can attack them together as a group. Each year it is always a different challenge for this group as we are under the mercy of Mother Nature and the Sea Gods. This year Mother Nature was kind but the Sea Gods did tests us.
After our safety meeting ends, Mike Brown, one of the of the founders of the event blows on the conch shell to signal the start of the crossing and we gracefully enter the water (the opposite of a beach race start) and we head off into the early dawn on some very calm and peaceful water. We introduce ourselves to the newcomers, chat with old friends and head off as the sun starts to rise. The harbor master safely escorts us out to the bay, the lead boat and safety boats line up and we are off.
The excitement begins early as this year we launched from Scussett Beach in Sagamore so we were greeted with the currents and tides that come from the Cape Cod Canal. This was an interesting moment as some of use were wondering if this crazy water would be with us the whole way but as I looked ahead I could see the water was becoming more calm. I looked over at another paddler who also could see the calm waters and we would knew we’d get a little bit of a break before whatever else was head of us.
This year the group was small but mighty and were able to stay at a good clip as our lead boat kept us around 3.5 to 4 mph. As the morning progressed, those calm waters started to change and brought out the fun swells that the Bay churns up. At the 10th mile we stopped for a water/snack break. Our Captains with their crew on each boat took great care of all us by providing extra waters and snacks. We started to head out again after the break and not far along into our paddle I noticed the lead boat pointing at something and I said to myself “here we go”, thinking my biggest fear was becoming a reality. I turned to see a fin behind us but this fin was attached to a Sailfish who just wanted to check us out and hang for a bit….Phew!
This year I was really able to reflect back on past challenges and how far I come to tackling this challenge. My first year, I felt I could do this. Not knowing what the training really required and then realizing after being picked up 3 times by the support boat that my training involved a whole level that I was not prepared for. Each year I have stepped up the training. Even though nothing can prepare you for “out of your hands” weather conditions, I think I finally figured the formula out. That is to combine the physical training and the passion and strive to help others. Normally, I go into my training for SUP races for me and my string will to perform at my best, but for this event I train to help others and to work as a team.
After our lunch break, 19 miles in, we were starting to see land and knew we were getting closer to Wellfleet as we could see the cliffs in the distance. Our safety boats had to start turning off this point as the waters become too shallow and rocky for them but they would meet us later in Wellfleet harbor. As the waters became more shallow we were greeted by a very curious seal who checked us out and then left. At one point, the water became too shallow for us to paddle and we had to add carrying the boards across a sandbar as part of the challenge. Once over the sandbar, we were back on the boards and off to Mayo Beach in Wellfleet for the finish.
As we round the next sandbar, we enter Wellfleet harbor. At this point we are about 5 miles away from our landing site where all our friends and families are there to greet us. We gather together to make sure we paddle the harbor as a group and finish as a group. The approach is so close yet so far away, we are now guided in by our Mike Chase, founder and the reason this event exists ever year. He usually paddles with us but this year he was able to support us from the safety board and cheered us on the end.
The beach is ahead of us, you can see and hear all our friends and family cheering us and the emotions began to take over. The feeling is so overwhelming that I cry as I paddle in. I can barely get off the board and into the arms of my husband who has supported me through it all along with my son Tyler. The best surprise of all is to see my friends who drove a distance and flew in to see this event.
The love and support I received from everyone at the end of this challenge is beyond amazing and gives me the strength to paddle across the bay.
After this long day, our efforts are awarded with an after party with food, a band, and the best is a free massage for all the paddlers, very much needed. Thank your Laura Kavaliauskaite, you saved my body from hurting the next morning. As we enjoy a very well deserved meal, it is time to talk about the day, why we are here and what we do this for, the families of Christopher’s Haven. When we hear the stories of what these children with cancer go through and what their families face each day, it only empowers us more to make sure that they receive the funds to keep this organization going. The night ends with the new comers receiving their first fish hook which provides strength and protection on the water and then the veterans receive their next fish hook to be added along side the years past. I wear my every day not only because it protects me on the water but it reminds me everyday of the challenges in life and that they can be overcome with strength and determination.
Next year will be the 10th Anniversary of the Cape Cod Bay Challenge which I am very excited to be a part of again. As I finish this blog, the one thing I hope to leave you with is that after you reading about my adventure it gives you the determination to go out there and do something that challenges you, and if it is the CCBC then join us next year.
“Christopher’s Haven was founded in 2001 when a group of people saw the desperate need for temporary, low-cost housing for pediatric cancer patients and their families while receiving treatments at Boston hospitals.”http://christophershaven.org/
Thank you Mike Chase and the entire Board of Directors for CCBC for everything that you do for us from keeping us safe, keeping us motivated and moving and most of all for helping Christopher’s Haven.